A friend, trying to set me up on a blind date, asked about my hobbies. I talked about running and fitness, writing and reading, and then mentioned some of my less-known pastimes: domestic activities like cooking and baking and sewing.
My friend then told me I was homely.
So I explained that "homely" primarily means "ugly" or "unattractive," and I thought he meant "domestic." (He’s not a native English speaker. I decided to assume he was mistaken in his word choice. Still hoping.)
My mother is amazing—yet not very domestic. Neither were my grandmothers. I'm not sure why. All of them worked, yes, and so do I. The one great-grandmother who I knew quilted and baked in volumes I've never since seen—and she was as involved in the farm business as my great-grandfather. So I don't think housewifery is necessary for domesticity.
My great-grandmother was too elderly to teach me by the time I wanted to learn. Given that my mother and grandmothers weren't, as my friend would say, "homely," I didn't learn at their hips as I grew up.
I'm not sure why I suddenly craved knowledge of nearly bygone domestic activity. Credit nostalgia. Credit my love of quiet and deliberation and craft and creation. Whatever the cause, I wanted to learn.
Growing up, I'd done needlepoint, cross-stitch, and latch-hook rugs. I remember finding needlepoint especially soothing. (I wonder if I still would?)
That was about it.
So, first, I taught myself how to quilt. I'd loved my great-grandmother's quilts, which were all over her farm house and all over my grandmother’s house. My mom had one or two as well. My father's mother gave me a quilt from my great-aunt, which I cherished. (Interesting aside: My quilting great-grandmother, who came from my mother's side, and my quilting great-aunt, who came from my father's side, were named Hazel.) At first I hand pieced and hand quilted, yet now I machine piece the design. I still hand quilt. (Only quilters will understand the meaning of this, I know.)
Then I taught myself to knit, but I had no knack for it. I made a couple little trinkets and a teddy bear for my brother, but I didn't love the process or my results.
Next, while living in London, I taught myself to cook. London was an odd choice of location for this project, as the kitchen was a tiny little area fashioned out of what was once the house's scullery. I had no modern cooking appliances—not even a microwave.
I’d always been a baker—mainly of cookies as a kid—but after learning to cook, I decided I wanted to truly learn to bake. (And in the process, I learned that I love baking far more than cooking.) I started the learning process in London and perfected it in Houston. I baked fresh bread of all kinds, sweets and cakes, and finally moved on to pies—a tip of the hat to my great-grandmother, who made pie almost every morning. (And who doesn't love pie?)
I've gotten to the point that I prefer my own home-cooked food to anything I can get at a restaurant—even the fanciest one.
Oh, I didn't stop there. Next I taught myself to do basic, practical sewing, making simple skirts tailored to my frame. (I can't recommend doing this more highly. Cute skirts in any color that fit well? What girl wouldn't want that? Get started with this book—I did.)
I'm not sure what I’ll pick up next. Maybe I've covered it. Sure, there are still endless skills I could learn in the domestic arena, but none have piqued my interested quite yet.
Are there any "old fashioned" domestic hobbies you love?